Andy Stanley - The Difference Between Jesus And Religion
I don't know about your experience, but in my experience, the gravitational pull of religion is generally and the way it's presented and the way that many of us experienced that especially growing up, the gravitational pull of religion is usually toward some sort of behavioral conformity. You know, there's like this is how we do it here, if you're going to be part of this church, if you're part of this religion, you know, this is how we do it here. In fact, if you show up new to an environment that's a religious environment, you kind of aren't sure what to do sometimes.
In fact, some of you who are gathered with us in what you would consider a religious environment and you're not really sure what to do either because there's just stuff that you do, you gotta learn the rules, but it goes beyond the rules of, you know, a gathering. There's just stuff you have to do to be a part of that religion, and this may be the reason you left religion, it may be the reason you left Christianity or you left the church, either you couldn't keep the rules, or you didn't want to keep the rules or they just didn't make any sense to you. In fact, interestingly enough, and maybe all of us have experiences in some capacity, once you get outside the bubble of any kind of community, especially a religious community, once you get outside of it and look back at it, you're kind of like, that's just kind of weird.
In fact, Sandra and I grew up very similar in, you know, a southern traditional church, and we love the way that we were brought up, and appreciate it so much, but there were just some weird things about it, but when you're doing it when you're in it, it doesn't seem weird it's just a way of life, it's just the kind of the flow of life, it's the rhythm of life. But, and along with the kind of things that are kind of harmless, sometimes a part of those little religious bubbles, sometimes they're a bit harmful, and once you get outside of it again it's kind of like you look at it and go, you know what that, I don't, that doesn't even make any sense, it made sense at the time, but it doesn't make sense to me now, and this is true of basically any religious system, whether it's Christian or not, but somewhere along the way as part of that little bubble, or that little eco, or that little microcosm of behavior, there is, there are behaviors, there's things that you're supposed to do and things you're never supposed to do and there's generally some sort of condemnation, you know, associated with those kinds of things.
Now, with that as a backdrop, one of the most perplexing, irreverent, paradigm shifting, mind bending statements that Jesus made in his earthly ministry addressed this. And here's what he said, and the problem with us is because we're not dialed into First Century Judean culture, if you read a phrase like this when you're reading through the Bible, you just read right by it, but I'm telling you when Jesus said this, I would bet just about anything there was a gasp in the crowd. In fact, when you read this, the statement in context, it was part of the reason that the religious leaders turned on him so quickly. So one day he's teaching, and he makes this statement, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath". Exactly, it's like, what, who cares, right? Just keep goingm you know, give me something I could apply to my life.
This was a paradigm shift of epic proportion. And the reason it was is because first century Judaism, and modern Judaism in some capacity, the Sabbath is everything. It's one of the hallmarks, it's one of the things that differentiates Jewish people from the rest of culture, how they keep Sabbath, and Sabbath was to be kept in such a way that even if you were a visitor and someone's home, even if you were a foreigner living in ancient Israel, especially you know, pre-First Century, you had to keep Sabbath because that's just what everybody did, it was like one of the top 10, right, and the the bottom line is that people are more important than the Sabbath. But the way it had been presented, and the way it had been lived out is no, no, no, the Sabbath is everything, because the Sabbath is somehow connected to the holiness of God, so consequently, you don't violate the Sabbath and Jesus comes along and says no, you don't understand my father.
The Sabbath was made for you. You weren't made for the Sabbath. And as it turns out, what was true of the Sabbath was true of the entire law, but the religious folks in that culture, and unfortunately religious folks in modern culture, get this turned around. So, let me say it a different way because I can tell there's still kind of like, I'm not even sure what you're talking about. So let me, let me put it in modern terminology. Nobody has children, so there will be someone to play with the toys. Let me say that again. Nobody has, couples aren't like, you know we've got all these toys we should have some children, there's nobody playing with these toys, we need to get ourselves some kids so the toys won't be bored, right? No, toys are for the benefit of the children, not the other way around.
So back to Jesus' point, let me put it a different way, this is huge, in fact, this may be hard for you to believe that God did not create us so there would be someone to keep his rules, that his commands are for people, because God is for people, and specifically, God is for you. Now, again, let me put it a different way, that God loves, this is what Jesus is about, the teaches, I'm just kind of giving you a heads up, in case you leave earlier you lose power, God loves you more than God loves his commandments. And when you get this reversed, people get hurt. When you get this reversed, when somehow the be all end all is the rule, not the people, people get hurt and religious leaders have leveraged this backwards for generations, and we're about to discover Jesus dives into this dialogue, into this conversation, and into this tension, and he stirs things up. And eventually, he'd be arrested and crucified, because he just wouldn't play along with the way that people had twisted his father's words.
In fact, as we're about to discover, when religious leaders, and I'm part of the problem, or, I certainly can be, when religious leaders, use the law of God to manipulate people made in the image of God, Jesus was quick to remind them that they were on the wrong side of God. And this may be the reason, this may go to the heart of your struggle with organized religion, or specifically Christianity, and I'm hoping today, in the next few minutes, that Jesus' words would penetrate your heart and penetrate your religious paradigm, so that you might understand the love of your heavenly Father, specifically in Jesus words, understand this kingdom, this worldview, this way of life, that he came to introduce.
So today we're in part three of a story that should have died in Nero's Rome, but fortunately it didn't. It is the story of Jesus of Nazareth as told by his most famous Apostle, Simon Peter, we just know him as Peter, and it's dictated to, and edited by, a gentleman named John Mark. And John Mark traveled with the Apostle Peter and heard him tell the stories of his life with Jesus for, well, Peter told the stories for over 30 years, toward the end of that traveling he was joined by John Mark who listened and, hopefully, perhaps documented some of these stories. And now, Peter is in his 50s, he's in Rome, he's imprisoned, and he's not going to leave the city alive but he doesn't know it at the time.
And so, Mark, who's traveling with him, who's very literate, coaxes the story out of him one more time, and it comes to us as the Gospel of Mark. Eventually the Gospel of Mark is not called the Gospel of Mark, eventually this First Century document is collected with other accounts of the life of Jesus, the letters the Apostle Paul, it's collected and it's given a name in the Fourth Century, and the name is called the Bible. But today I don't want you to hear me reading the Bible. Because Mark wasn't writing the Bible. Mark was documenting Peter's experience with Jesus, and according to Peter, as he dictates it and downloads it to Mark, he said, right out of the gates Jesus had a very simple message, Peter would say we didn't understand it at the time.
In fact, stay with me on this journey so you'll understand it in the end. But Jesus's message was very simple. He would say everywhere he went, every time he preached, every time he taught, "the time has come"! "The kingdom of God has come near", which means you're never far. The time has come. The wait is over, everything was building up to this moment, "The time has come, the kingdom of God has come near", this is what Jesus's preached, and then he would say here's what I want you to do in response. "I want you to repent and believe this good news". If the religion you were brought up on wasn't good news, it might not have been the original version, it may not have been Peter's version. And so Peter says here's what Jesus told us, everywhere he went, he wanted people to turn and to face, and embrace this new way of living, this new way of relating, this new way of understanding God the Father, and this new kind of love that he was introducing to the world.
So we're in part three, but previously on "You're Not Far", here's where we left off. Jesus, did you get that? Jesus is up in Capernaum, he's traveling around these little fishing villages. Capernaum's kind of the big city up here in the north, this is the Sea of Galilee, Dead Sea, Jerusalem, Galilee, Mediterranean Sea. He's up here, and he's got, so far he's got four followers, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, he's got Peter, Andrew, James, and John. Peter, Andrew, James, and John. They come into Capernaum and they see somebody that Peter knows, we know Peter knows him because he tells Mark what the guy's father's name is. He sees Levi, and Levi's a tax collector. This is where we left off last time. And Jesus stares at Levi and Peter's like, yeah I know, right, a traitor to our city, a traitor to his family.
Everybody hates this guy, Jesus walks up to him and Peter's like oh I don't want to miss this. And Jesus leans in and says the Levi, "Follow me". And Peter, Andrew, James, and John are like, I'm not sure if he follows you if we're going to follow you. Okay, because he's an embarrassment to the family, and everybody knows what he's up to because he's out here doing it in public all the time, so they have a decision to make. And besides, Jesus, do you have no standards? Are there no restrictions as to who you would invite to follow you. And the patriots, the Jewish patriots, and the Jewish religious people are offended by this. So Peter, Andrew, James, and John have a decision to make, but they've seen too much, they've heard too much, and they decided to follow Jesus anyway. So Levi, we knew him as Matthew, Levi stands up and Jesus says follow me, and I don't know how this conversation went because Peter didn't tell us but Levi's like okay, I'll follow you, "Where are we going"? And Jesus smiles and says, "Well I thought we would just go to your house" and Peter, Andrew, James, and John are like this is just getting worse by the moment.
So the text tells us when Jesus was having dinner at Levi's house, now this is wrong on so many levels, because dinner at someone's home now, especially back then, was intimate, it was symbolic, everybody knew who was at everybody's house because everybody lived close together, these villages, these towns are small, everybody knew. It implies acceptance, and then it gets even worse because Peter says it wasn't just us five with Levi, he was having dinner at Levi's house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him, and his disciples for there were many who followed him. So essentially either Jesus or Levi, we don't know who, either Jesus or Levi invites the whole office home. Hey you guys put down your pens and parchments, we're going to close the tax collecting office for today and we're all going to my house, and bring your family, and bring your friends.
Well Jesus by this time has been shadowed by the Pharisees even up in the northern part of the country, because this guy is just, what he's teaching is so disruptive. I mean, a new kind of Kingdom, the kingdom of God is near, the kingdom of God is near, the kingdom of God is near, that's so messianic. So they're shadowing him, and they follow Levi, and Jesus's little posse all the way to Levi's house, but they don't dare step across the threshold, because that would make them ceremonially unclean. And so here's what happened. When the teachers of the law, who were Pharisees, saw him eating with sinners, talking about Jesus, and tax collectors, they asked his disciples, because they're standing out on the street, they're like, psst, Simon, you know, Andrew somebody come out here.
Why? Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners? Implication, why doesn't eat with us? We can't even get coffee with him. We can't get any of his undivided attention, and now here he is eating with the worst of the worst. Besides, he's a rabbi. He's supposed to speak on behalf of God, he should know better. And when Jesus hears about this conversation, he doesn't apologize, he doubles down, and he says to Peter, Andrew, James, or John, he says go back out there and tell him this, he said on hearing this, Jesus said, "Let them make sure they hear it and they know, it is not the healthy", and I think he says this inside of Levi's home, "it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick", to which Levi's like, all of his friends, all of his guests are like, whoa, you calling us sick? No offense Levi, but you and your friends, I think Jesus was so gregarious, he just smiles and chuckles he says, you're all sick. And they kind of looked at each other and suddenly they realize who they are and what they've been up to and somehow it wasn't offensive.
Somehow because of how the story unrolls, Levi is ready to acknowledge his sickness. He's ready to acknowledge his sinfulness, he's ready to acknowledge what he's been up to, and I gotta pause the story and we got to think about this for a minute. Imagine, okay? Imagine, you know, Levi, who no one's ever going to hear about again once he passes away. Levi who's an embarrassment to his nation and his family, Levi who is a nobody, is sitting in his home up here in Capernaum, and he's considering whether or not he's going to follow Jesus with his life, and think for a moment about what hung in the balance of that one decision. Think about what hung in the balance of his decision to open up his heart, and his life, and his mind and acknowledge, yeah, there's something wrong with me. I need help. I'm a, to use Jesus's term, not mine, I'm a sinner, who's in need of forgiveness.
So let me just ask you, then we're going to continue with the story. Do you know what hangs in the balance of your decision to admit you need help? And the answer is no, you don't. And there's something on the inside of you, your cousin, you know, has emailed you, your husband or your wife, your kids say daddy, you know, mommy and there's just people who love you, and you've kind of shut them all out, and it may be something to do with Christianity, it may be something to do with your drinking, it may be something to do with some other habit, you need help. You're like Levi, and you've been given an opportunity, you've been given an invitation. You've been nudged. And do you know what, do you know what hangs in the balance of your decision to acknowledge your need and to say yes? I'll give you just a glimpse, a world of freedom, of forgiveness, of peace, and a different level of relationship that perhaps you know nothing about. And you'll never know until you step up and are willing to go.
And I just want you to know every single day of your life there is an open invitation from your Savior to follow him into that kind of freedom, into that kind of new life. And you never know what you miss. You never know what you miss until you say yes, back to the story. So on hearing this, Jesus said to them, reviewing real quick, on hearing this, Jesus said to them "it is not that healthy who need a doctor, but the sick", and then he says this, "I have not come", this was kind of offensive to Peter, Andrew, James, and John, "I have not come to call", that is the little Greek term, I've not come to invite, I've not come to summon, I've not come to call or to reach out to the righteous, "I've only come to call the sinners". And then Peter's like, well he called me. He called by brother, and James and John, and suddenly this this group that was, you know, so different from each other, you know, the righteous, hard working, you know, Peter, Andrew, James, and John, and Levi, suddenly Jesus says, no, no, no, everybody I call is a sinner. I've not come to call righteous people. What Jesus didn't say, that he could have said, is I've never even met a righteous person. I've come to call everybody to this new way.
Now here's what's really interesting about this, that again, we completely miss. In ancient times, ancient times, ancient religions, they didn't even call, they weren't even religions really, but it's our term, ancient religions, pagan religions, they didn't evangelize, they didn't proselytize, they didn't try to get people to convert from their version of paganism to a new version of paganism, and the Jews didn't go out and try to convert pagans to become Jews, this just wasn't the way it works. In ancient times, the gods were like apps, they really were like apps. You want your crops to grow, you want your babies to grow, you want your house not to fall down on you, you want to be victorious in war, oh no problem, there's a God for that. This is how they thought all over the world, all over the ancient world. You didn't ask people to abandon their gods in order to embrace your God. You just, they just would add your God to their god, it was just another burger on the grill.
I got these six household gods, and let me tell you, your god does what? That's great, I'm just going to add your god. Just going to put in a little statue up on the mantel, so nobody converted from one religion to another, and nobody converted from one version of paganism to another. They just changed the names of the gods, or they just added gods. And Jesus comes along, this is brand new in history, Jesus comes along and says I'm inviting you to leave something. I'm inviting you to abandon something. And I'm inviting you to embrace something brand new. And the reason Jesus invited Levi in, and the reason he invited Peter, Andrew, and James, and John in, and the reason that invitation is extended to you is because the time has come. The wait is over. All the other pagan religions, all the other religions of the world, all the other cults of the world, all the, even Judaism, it all pointed to a time when God was going to reveal himself in such a way that the entire world would be invited to a brand new kind of Kingdom. A kingdom of the heart, a kingdom of conscience. The kingdom of God has come near, which means you are never far. You are one turn away. You are one decision away. You are one shift in mindset away.
So repent, that is, face it, and embrace this brand new news, and it was Jesus's pursuit of sinners, and it was Jesus's pursuit of the unrighteous that illustrated the revolutionary nature of the kingdom of God. You didn't have to be born in a certain part of the world. You didn't have to understand certain customs. You didn't have to speak a specific language. You didn't have to have a specific heritage, every one is invited, and he went out of his way to invite people in. He went out to invite people in.
Now, to ensure that readers understood that the contrast, Peter then moves from this little incident we just talked about with Levi's house, to one of Jesus's favorite metaphors. Here's what he said, this is, he's quoting Jesus and Jesus said this more than once. He said, I want to make sure you understand the newness and the uniqueness of my message, I've not come to tweak something. I've come to replace everything that's in place. For example, "No one sews a patch of unstrung cloth on an old garment".
Now when Jesus said this, everybody in this audience is like, right, everybody knows better than to do that, and by the way you see, people never threw clothes away back in ancient times, clothes were very expensive, so if something ripped or torn, you didn't throw it away and replace it, you didn't give it to somebody else, you patched it. And he says, you know that you never, you never take a piece of unshrunk cloth and use it as a patch on old material, why? Otherwise he says, and everybody knew this, the new piece, the unstruck piece will pull away from the old making the tear even worse, and they're all like, we pretty much known that since we can remember knowing anything. He says, let me tell you something else you know too, "And no one in the same way pours new wine into old wine skins".
The old wine skins were stretched, they were old, they were brittle, and he says otherwise he tells him, again, something they all knew, otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, the old skins, and both the wine and the wine skin will be ruined. They're like, yep, we already knew that too. What is your point? This is so powerful. His point was that this new teaching, this unique teaching, this brand new unique worldview was like the new wine, the message of Jesus was the new cloth and the new wine, and the mental image of torn cloth and burst wine skins punctuated the impossibility, they punctuated the impossibility of trying to blend Jesus's new message with a current cultural system, in their case, First Century Judaism. He said, I have not come to blend anything, you cannot add what I'm teaching on to what you already have, and you cannot pour what I'm teaching into the container you've already developed, it is all new. It punctuated the futility of attempting to blend Jesus worldview and his values and what he was teaching with the system of Rome, with the kingdoms of Rome, with the kingdoms of this world. He said, I'm introducing something completely new.
You can't take what I'm teaching, and put it in your old context because with my new teaching I'm creating a brand new movement, a brand new ecclesia, a brand new assembly that eventually we would come to know as the church. The two are completely incompatible. He had come to fulfill and retire the entire law to replace it with something better. He said no, you don't pour new wine into old wine skins, you pour new wine into new wine skins. So if the teaching, and the message, and the worldview of Jesus was new wine, then new wine skin, again, would be his ecclesia. He would talk about it in terms of the kingdom of God, but eventually he would announce to His disciples, I'm starting something brand new on planet Earth that you're going to be able to see, and nothing's going to be able to stop it, and you know what, if you're part of a church, it's you. It's us. We are the container. We are the context, we are the framework for the brand new teaching of Jesus.
But then, before we can even start to digest all of that, Peter moves us right along because he's a storyteller. There's a story, after story, after story, and he plunges us into yet another Sabbath controversy, again, to underscore this very same point, the incompatibility of Jesus's teaching with the current models. He said Jesus went into a synagogue, again, we think he's still up here in the area of Capernaum, and Capernaum may have been large enough to have more than one synagogue. Jesus went into the synagogue and a man was there with a shriveled hand, and shriveled hand meant he has had some sort of hand atrophy, which meant probably had broken his hand, or he had broken bones in his hand or he'd broken fingers, and they had either been improperly set, or maybe not set at all, and consequently, his hand had just begun to shrivel, he probably kept it in a sleeve.
It was visible, it was noticeable. And it was very embarrassing. And apparently, as Jesus enters the synagogue, and as people begin to gather in the synagogue. This man somehow, you know, eye contact somehow let Jesus see his hand as sort of an invisible plea for help, like, hey, maybe when this is over, we go out back or maybe when this is over I can follow you out of town, but it was a plea for help. But other people in the synagogue knew this man and they knew he had an injured hand as well, and the text says, Peter says, I'll never forget this day, "some of them", he said it was unbelievable to me, I knew these people, I just had no idea how cruel they could be. "Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal this man on the Sabbath", because their first entry application of the law, of the law of Moses, to heal, or to help someone on the Sabbath was actually a sin.
If somebody was dying, you could rescue them, you know, if they were hanging off a cliff or they're drowning, you could rescue them. But if somebody just needed help, or needed medical attention, no help, no medical attention on the Sabbath. Jesus looked at the man and the interrupts whatever was happening in the on the Sabbath in the synagogue and he says this, Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, this was his, this was his nightmare, this was the worst day ever, "Stand up in front of everyone". It's like, what? "Stand up in front of everyone". See, and we're gonna talk about this next week, don't miss next week, it's these kinds of details that that assure me and confirm for me nobody made this up. Mark's like, do you want me to write that down? Peter's like I'm just telling you what happened. Jesus calls him out in front of the whole group and were like, oh, no. "Stand up", he said. And Jesus then turns to the audience, especially to the Pharisees in the crowd, he asked him this question, "Which is lawful on the Sabbath", because he knew their minds he knew their hearts, "which is lawful on the Sabbath to do good, or to do evil"?
Which is lawful on the Sabbath to do good, or to do evil? Kind of a trick question but you know what his real question was, his real question is this, what was God's purpose in giving us the law to begin with? What was God's purpose in giving us the law? Why didn't God gives us rules? Is it to preserve the rules is that what our mission in life is? To preserve and to honor the rules or is it something else? And before they can answer because they're not going to answer, and while they're thinking he reiterates it, he asks it a second way, he says, "Which is permissible on the Sabbath, to do good or to do evil, to save a life, or to kill"? And maybe this was literal, maybe this man couldn't work, maybe nobody would hire him, maybe he was starving to death. Maybe this injury had, he was so debilitated, it really was a life or death issue for him, we don't know, what's he getting at?
What he is getting at is this, he goes back to that first verse because actually the verse I showed you at the beginning, came right before this story. He's illustrating what he just taught. The question is the law of God for the benefit of God, is the law of God for the benefit of God? I don't know how you were raised, and nobody did this on purpose, I don't think, but there were seasons of my life growing up in church, and I loved church, where at times I wondered if maybe, not in these terms because I wasn't, I didn't have these terms, but, I was sort of left with the impression that maybe the laws were for the benefit of God, because some of the laws are so weird, and some of the rules were so strange they certainly weren't for the benefit of me, they just got in the way of me.
So this is Jesus's question because this is a huge paradigm shift. Are the laws for the benefit of God or are the laws for the benefit of those that God loves? Because if they are for the benefit of those God loves, then people take precedent over the law. Children aren't for the toys, the toys are for the children. So we ask them this question. Hey, what's law, what's permissible on the Sabbath, to do good or evil, to heal or to kill? And they're like children listening to a parent, or an uncle, or an aunt, this happened to us all the time growing up, right? You were kind of, you know, doing something wrong, and your mom or your dad, or you have a question, and your mom or dad ask you a question, and you know the answer to the question, the question is so clear, you know?
But you know if you answer the question out loud then you'll be accountable to your own words so you just you just pouted, like, I'm not answering that. I know the answer, I know the right answer, so that's the situation they're in. They know the right answer, but if they answer this correctly, they're giving Jesus permission to pursue this brand new path that's so uncomfortable, so disruptive. So Peter said, well Mark's like, well what did they say? And Peter's like well, they didn't say anything. They just stared. They knew if they answered out loud they're accountable to their words. And how did Jesus respond? How does Jesus respond? If you're considering Christianity, how does your heavenly Father respond to people who apply God's law in such a way that it hurts those God's loves? How does Jesus respond when religious leaders use the law of God to hurt people made in the image of God? The text says he looked around in anger.
The Greek term here in the New Testament is oftentimes translated wrath, the wrath of Jesus. And why is he angry? He's angry because religious leaders used his Father's words and interpreted his Father's words in such a way that the Father's words were elevated over the people his Father loved. He goes on, he says "He looked around at them in anger, and he was deeply distressed at their stubborn heart", they wouldn't even acknowledge what they knew to be true. And Peter said, and then it happened. He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand, and he pulled it out of his sleeve, and his hand was completely restored". And the response of the Pharisees is so over the top in our way of thinking, but it made perfect sense to them, because they could see what we miss. "Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus".
Like, wait, hang on, hang on. Run him out of town, you know, run him back home, you know, send him to Jerusalem, you know, maybe arrest him, maybe put them on a cart. Wait, you want to murder a rabbi, because he healed on the Sabbath? But they understood what's easy for us to miss. There was no way to blend. And this is what they would try to do. This is what, unfortunately, religious people have tried to do ever since. There was no way to blend what they were trying to preserve with the kingdom Jesus had come to establish. There was no way for them to blend the kingdom, the mindset, the framework, the view of God, that they were trying so desperately to defend. They could not blend that with the kingdom, the mindset, the worldview that Jesus had come to establish, he had indeed come to reverse the order of just about everything. The Sabbath, the law, the rules. God gave those for the benefit of mankind. Not the Sabbath.
They were given for the benefit of mankind, rather than the other way around. God is like a good parent. He loves you more than he loves his rules, even those big 10. And then, Peter goes on. He drags us through another couple of narratives, all of this is happening way up here at the top of the Sea of Galilee, and then this strangest thing happens, suddenly out of nowhere, first time they appear in the story in Peter's account, suddenly, Mary, the mother of Jesus shows up outside of Capernaum, with Jesus's brothers, and there's all this controversy, and they kind of make their way through the crowd, and they try to take Jesus out of the crowd and take him home and rescue him from himself. And then she says something about her son that some of you moms have said about some of your children too.
Again, here's what we're going to talk about this a little bit in depth next time, don't miss next time, because this is the kind of thing, I'm sure when Peter said it, you know, Mark's like okay, you want me to write, you really, you sure you want to include this in the story? Peters like, I'm just telling you what happened. Mary shows up, his brother show up, they're trying to get Jesus to leave with them and go back home, and when we asked Mary why, do you know what she said about her own son? Mark's like what? "He is out of his mind". I quote, Mary says about Jesus, "He is out of his mind". This doesn't look good on Mary, and this doesn't look good on Jesus. Why is it in the Gospel of Mark? Because it happened. And they didn't pull any punches, and they didn't sand off the rough edges.
Peter says I know we couldn't believe it. And we will pick up the storyline next time right there in part four of "You're Not Far". But before we go, two quick takeaways all right, this is so important. Look up here. If you are a sinner, and you are, if you are a sinner, you are invited to follow Jesus beginning today from wherever you start, with whatever you got going on. This is the lesson. If you are a sinner, now if you are somebody who is willing to acknowledge, like Levi, did, something's wrong with me. Something's up with me, something's broken in me. I fall short of my own standard. I can't dig myself out of my own hole. I can't be the husband I swore I would be, I can't be the wife I want to be. I can't be the parent I want to be. I can't show the respect to my parents I know they deserve, but I just can't seem to control my mouth. I need help.
The invitation is wide open to you. You are invited to begin today from wherever you start following Jesus. So I can say it this way. If you lived in the First Century, and you had going on what you've got going on now Jesus would seek you out, and he would invite you as you are to take a step, and to follow him. He would come to your door and knock and invite him self in, and you may be uncomfortable with what he found inside of your house but he would not be, and he would be comfortable with you until you became comfortable with him. That's what we've seen modeled in the gospels, and specifically in the Gospel of Mark. So follow. Second thing, if you're already a follower, yield to Jesus, say yes to Jesus. When your will bumps up against his will, you just say yes.
And here's the great thing, you're not saying yes to a list, you're not saying yes to a law. You're saying yes to a person that left us with one single, simple, all encompassing, but terrifying command. He said you are to treat people the way that I have treated you, you are to love one another the way that I have loved you, follow me and follow me into this different way of living, this different way of life, this different worldview. Not a list, not a law. A person. A person who came for you, who invites you, because he loves you. This is why we say all the time at our churches, following Jesus, following Jesus. Not believing, following Jesus will make your life better, and it'll make you better at life. It'll make you better father, husband, it'll make you better employer, employee, it'll make you a better son, a better daughter, it'll make you a better person, not simply because you believe something but because you begin to do, and to change, because doing makes all the difference, and that is the invitation to follow.
The really cool thing, and I'll close with this, Levi, who really we know more as Matthew, same person, Matthew, Levi, when he says yes to Jesus, he eventually gets the opportunity to write one of the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, same guy, Levi wrote the Gospel of Matthew, Levi had employees, Matthew had employees, he had scribes, so they followed Jesus around, they wrote it all down, it's an incredible gospel. And here's one of the things that's unique to Matthew's Gospel that he wrote down that Jesus said, and maybe he wrote this down and made sure he included this because it was so important to him in light of his background.
One day Jesus was teaching and he said this, and this is for all of us. He said, "Take my yoke upon you". You have a yoke, you have a way of life, you have a way of doing life, you have a way of approaching the world. He said, I want you to put yours down and take mine on you, it's a better yoke than the one you're currently carrying. "Take my yoke upon you, learn from me". Just sit at my feet and listen and learn, "for I am gentle, and I am humble in heart", and at the end of the day "you will find rest for your soul", you will find rest on the inside, you will find peace. You can't imagine even exists. And, if that version of faith.
If that version of religion stands in contrast to what you were presented with by your pastor, your priest, or your parents. Perhaps they were trying to pour the new wine of Jesus into an old container, and at the end of the day to you, it just felt like a big mess. Because Jesus did not come to tweak something old. He came to establish something brand new. He came to introduce something new, and to use his word, something near, because the time had come. The kingdom of God has come near. And your invitation, his invitation to you and to me, is to turn, and to face it, and to embrace it. And when we do, life begins to change. Hear, embrace, hear and learn, hear and believe this good news. And don't miss next week.